Bolivia - Uruguay: Hosts well worthy of their win through fine collective performance

World Cup Qualification
CONMEBOL – Group 1
Sun. 3 September 1989
Kick-off: 
Estadio Hernando Siles, 
La Paz
Att.: 45,000
Video: goals

Bolivia 2 – 1 Uruguay
1-0 (38) Alfonso Domínguez (own goal)
2-0 (47) Álvaro Peña
2-1 (49) Rubén Sosa

Ref.: José Vergara
L1: José Lozada
L2: Francisco Farías
(All Venezuela)

Written by: kaltz

Preview

This was the third from a total of six Group 1 fixtures, and here met the two teams who had both won their opening fixtures. Bolivia had overcome Peru after coming from a goal down to win 2-1, while visiting Uruguay had won by an impressive 2-0 scoreline away from home to the same Peruvians. They were natural favourites to win the group and progress through to the World Cup, but they would surely not get it all their way in the altitude of the Bolivian capital.

The pair had met recently in the Copa América tournament in Brazil, and though it had happened on neutral ground, the Uruguayans, who would ultimately battle it out with the hosts for the title, had triumphed deservedly by three goals to nil. Both teams appeared stronger on paper now than they had back then, with midfielders Vladimir Soria and Erwin Romero having been added to the Bolivian squad, whilst Enzo Francescoli, who had missed Uruguay’s two opening Copa América fixtures with injury, was available for the visitors.

Whilst it was still early days, this is how the table read:

PosTeamPlWDLGFGAPts
1Uruguay1100202
2Bolivia1100212
3Peru2002140

Bolivia team news

Two weeks had passed since Bolivia’s opening day win over Peru. They’d had to come from behind then to claim their 2-1 triumph, and they had been the better team for large portions of the contest. Bolivia had even missed a first half penalty through left-back Roberto Pérez.

Jorge Habegger (dark suit, fourth from left) sat alongside substitutes Eduardo Villegas, Marco Etcheverry and Carlos Trucco (partially hidden)

On this occasion, manager Jorge Habegger had picked a near identical squad. The solitary omission from the 16 men last time around was wide player Francisco Takeo. He had started that tie, though he’d come off at half-time. Whether he was absent on this occasion for tactical reasons or due to injury remains unknown.

While the 23 year old Destroyers man was nowhere to be seen, into the squad had come midfielder Eduardo Villegas, a player who had featured in their relatively obtuse Copa América campaign, and who was seen as a defensive midfielder. 25 years of age from La Paz club The Strongest, thus team mate of defenders Ricardo Fontana and Eligio Martínez, Villegas could well have been drafted in to add further strength to central areas.

Habegger had lined his select up in a 4-4-2 against the Peruvians, with strikers Álvaro Peña and William Ramallo enjoying plenty of support from midfield, where in particular Erwin Romero had looked sound. They had also seen an excellent cameo performance from youngster Erwin Sánchez, who had been the man replacing Takeo at half-time.

It could be seen as an ageing team, with no less than six players 32 or older. The two 38 (!) year olds, goalkeeper Luis Galarza and Fontana, had both started last time around, and would appear favourites to do so once again. Did they have enough pace defensively to cope with the possible threat from such quick transition players as Paz, Alzamendi and Sosa?

Uruguay team news

Óscar Tabárez (right) and the Uruguayan substitutes’ bench

Just a week had passed since Uruguay’s opening qualifier, their 2-0 win in Peru, and manager Óscar Tabárez had named an identical squad of 16. They had meritted their triumph the previous Sunday, having sat back and cunningly hit the hosts on the break. Uruguay had plenty of pace coming forward, and it would be interesting to see whether or not they could replicate those tactics in the thin La Paz air. An altitude of 12 000 feet is hardly ideal for football.

Uruguay had battled Brazil all the way for the top spot in the recently held Copa América tournament, though they had failed to get a result against the hosts in the final game of the second group stage. Still, a runners-up finish was not bad. They remained favourites to go through from this particular qualification group, with this journey to Bolivia perhaps the most difficult of their four matches long qualification campaign.

Tabárez had named his team in a 4-3-3 formation last time around, and this clearly seemed to be his theme, so one could surely expect likewise again, unless he had felt the need to reinforce in the final third of the pitch in order to live with the more altitude-apt opponents.

Referee

43 year old José Vergara of Venezuela had been tasked with refereeing this fixture. He had been on the FIFA list of referees since the 1974/75 season, although he had not appeared in a whole lot of internationals during that time. He had overseen a single tie in both the 1979 and 1983 versions of the Copa América, with Bolivia on display both times: losing 2-0 to Brazil in ’79, and then drawing 2-2 with Colombia in 1983.

In addition, Vergara had performed a lot of Copa Libertadores duties, and he had amassed a total of 11 fixtures by the time of this La Paz qualifier. Possibly his greatest distinction had come only months earlier, when he’d been in Salvador, Brazil, and refereed the round of 16 match, second leg, between Bahia and Universitario of Peru (2-1, 3-2 on aggregate).

Previous meetings

The two countries had met 22 times through history, and the Uruguayan win percentage was an impressive 77, with 17 wins since their inaugural head to head back in 1926. They had met three times already since the start of June, with friendlies in either country, as well as the Copa América encounter in July (3-0 to ‘la Celeste’).

This was the first time the two countries had been paired in World Cup qualification since ahead of the 1978 tournament in Argentina, with Bolivia claiming a very rare victory (1-0) in the home tie in La Paz, and even achieving a creditable 2-2 draw in Montevideo. Neither team went through to the tournament proper on that occasion.

They had actually also met in World Cup tournament action: In 1950, in Brazil, Uruguay, later to be crowned champions, had slaughtered their Latin American counterparts and won by eight-nil during the initial group stage (just that solitary game, as France withdrew from the competition).

Venue

The Estadio Hernando Siles is situated to the north in the city, with the Cordillera Real mountain range as a spectacular backdrop. It should not be confused with the Estadio Olímpico Hernando Siles, which lies in more downtown areas of the bustling city. Capacity at the time was somewhere in the 50 000 region. 

Bolivia (3-6-1)

PlayerNotesAgeClub
12 Luis Galarza38Bolívar
3 Ricardo Fontana38The Strongest
4 Marcos Ferrufino26Bolívar
5 Roberto Pérez29Blooming
6 Vladimir Soria25Bolívar
7 José Milton Melgar29Bolívar
8 Carlos Borja (c)32Bolívar
10 Erwin Romero32Blooming
14 Eligio Martínez34The Strongest
18 William Ramallo26Destroyers
19 Álvaro Peña 23′, sub 63′24Blooming

Substitutes   
20 Carlos Trucco32Oriente Petrolero
16 Erwin Sánchezon 63′19Bolívar
x Eduardo Villegas25The Strongest
x Rómer Roca23Oriente Petrolero
22 Marco Etcheverry18Bolívar
Manager: Jorge Habegger

Uruguay (4-3-3)

PlayerNotesAgeClub
1 Eduardo Pereira35Independiente
2 Nelson Gutiérrez27Hellas Verona
3 Hugo De León31River Plate
4 José Herrerasub 78′24Figueres
5 José Perdomo 55′24Genoa
6 Alfonso Domínguez23Peñarol
7 Antonio Alzamendi33Logroñés
8 Santiago Ostolaza 23′27Nacional
9 Enzo Francescoli (c)27Olympique Marseille
10 Rubén Paz 48′30Genoa
11 Rubén Sosa23Lazio

Substitutes   
x Javier Zeoli27Tenerife
14 Pablo Bengoecheaon 78′24Sevilla
x José Pintos Saldanha25Nacional
x Gabriel Correa21Peñarol
x Rubén Da Silva21River Plate
Manager: Óscar Tabárez

Tactical line-ups

Match report

First half

Clearly in buoyant mood following their opening qualification day triumph against Peru, the home support had turned out in numbers once again. Perhaps did it feel natural to do so with one of the continent’s greats their darlings’ opponents, but there were signs that Bolivia were in this group to more than just make up the numbers. One felt as though they were ready to go toe to toe with their more illustrious adversaries. Could this be the new, defining moment in Bolivian football history, where they would send the group favourites back home wanting?

The pitch appeared pristine; the sound levels were intact. Bolivia’s support must have been hoping for further assistance from the altitude. Granted, it is perhaps dull and repetetive to just talk about their advantage playing nearly four kilometres up in the air for their home ties, but it is also a physiological fact that they have that edge. Still, they had some fine players, and one could be hoping that their eleven would do the talking on the pitch.

Ricardo Fontana

Alas, our tape from this fixture does only contain about nine minutes of action from the opening half. There’s no introduction, no playing of national anthems, no kick-off; we’re just straight into the action. And who knows where we are on the timeline when Bolivia goalkeeper Luis Galarza receives the ball back from his equally old, both 38, team mate Ricardo Fontana, the home side’s libero.

In possession: Santiago Ostolaza

What we do know, at least according to facts pages from the game, is that the first half had contained two yellow cards, one for each team: Around the midway point, Bolivia’s Álvaro Peña and the visitors’ Santiago Ostolaza had possibly clashed, with the pair having obtained each their booking. We have no video evidence to back this up.

The tape has Englishman John Helm commentating, and while he’s a well-thought of TV personality, this was far from his finest hour. He got several player identifications wrong. Even when shirt numbers were visible, he confused, for example, Peña for Eligio Martínez. Furthermore, we do not know whether Mr Helm had actually seen the first half in its entirety, or whether he had just been given to commentate on the footage which we have got available to us. Also, there’s no on-screen time indicator at any point during the match.

Marcos Ferrufino (#4, second half)

Fortunately, this was both countries’ second tie of the qualification campaign, and therefore we already had some points of reference, such as players’ positions. It would turn out that for Uruguay, they were in pretty much a similar set-up to what had been the case the previous week in Lima, whilst the Bolivians’ formation and shape were different in comparison to their first match. The solitary change in starting personnel, though, was big defender Marcos Ferrufino coming into the side in place of the absent Francisco Takeo. This alone would mean some reshuffling, with Takeo being an attacking midfielder.

Bolivia: in depth

Roberto Pérez (second half)

We had learnt from the Bolivians in their previous match that they had full-backs who loved to come forward. The pair had been Carlos Borja, the team’s captain, along the right, and Roberto Pérez, who had offered similar service from the left hand side. Even via the brief clips which we are presented from this first half, it is very much the same again: Both Borja and, perhaps to an even greater extent, Pérez love bombing ahead. However, well aware that they were up against a potentially quite lethal forward line, it would appear as if señor Habegger had reinforced his defence, and that they were now playing with three rather than two central defenders. This was the main change with Ferrufino coming into the side.

In the foreground: Eligio Martínez (second half)

While Galarza kept Carlos Trucco on the substitutes’ bench once more, Fontana maintained his place as the team’s libero, and he was often seen particularly deep inside the home side’s half of the pitch. He would rarely be very adventurous; he’d leave such ideas to the two wide defenders. Around him were Ferrufino and Martínez, where the latter had also appeared against Peru, and who had shown himself as someone relatively comfortable in possession, and not afraid to carry the ball across the halfway line. It would even here appear so that Martínez was playing slightly higher in the pitch than centre-back colleague Ferrufino, who was working to the libero’s advanced right, while Martínez was to Fontana’s ditto left.

Coming forward: Carlos Borja (second half)

It would be unjust on their wide pair Borja and Pérez to dub them full-backs, because they were so keen to contribute in the forward direction. Pérez, who was equipped with a tasty left foot, was seen several times as high in the pitch as level with the Uruguayan penalty area along the left, even during these sparse first half moments which we have available to us. Borja, on the other hand, would even at times come in field, although he, too, certainly had the knack of moving ahead at pace. They both seemed key to how Habegger wanted to portray his select, although neither were looking to swing crosses in. They would rather engage team mates along the ground, as Bolivia made use of some fine technical ability within their ranks.

Battling skills: Vladimir Soria (right, with Pérez to his left, second half)

At the base of the hosts’ midfield sat Vladimir Soria, who had not featured during their scoreless Copa América campaign, but who had come into the side to good effect against Peru. He certainly seemed a player loyal to team instructions, and he rarely ventured out of position. With Uruguay’s captain and primary playmaker Enzo Francescoli, indeed a world star at this point, typically working deep from his retracted forward role, Soria would often come into contact with the visitors’ number 9. This was a battle which Soria certainly seemed to relish.

Preparing to launch a crossfield pass: Álvaro Peña

What is on collision course with a view that Bolivia were playing in something akin to a 3-6-1 formation, is the fact that both Borja and wandering forward Álvaro Peña were operating wide to the right. While Borja enjoyed his freedom of coming forward, he still had Peña ahead of him along that flank. In refusing to classify Peña as a forward for this match, it should be pointed out how he’s clearly instructed to participate in work inside his own half. The solitary player which is without such responsibility, is lone striker William Ramallo, who had been Peña’s forward partner last time out.

Foreground: Milton Melgar

In what could be refered to as an inside right job, the hosts had the skillful and elegant Milton Melgar, who had netted the late first half penalty for the equalizer against Peru. He was one of the team’s major creative players, and he would constantly look for options further ahead in the pitch. He would enjoy coming into right-sided channels, and he would often, too, be fed the ball by team mates, and perhaps in particular the two players working wide along the right, Borja and Peña. Still, Melgar was probably second in terms of creativity within the Bolivian ranks, as Erwin Romero, who played as an advanced inside left midfielder, seemed to enjoy his playmaker’s role. Equipped with sublime close control and a tasty range of passing, Romero would enjoy taking on a man and beating him, and then look for Ramallo ahead of him. This was indeed a big weapon for the hosts.

First half goal

While there’s no action inside the hosts’ penalty area other than a long throw-in from the left by the visitors during the first half clips, Bolivia threaten Eduardo Pereira with a couple of low shots from an angle by Pérez, though there’s ultimately little danger posed. Peña then manages to put a high cross into the six yard box from a position near the right wing corner flag, and Ramallo challenges the ‘keeper well, though Pereira’s eventually awarded a free-kick. It was more a case of the referee protecting the custodian rather than the Bolivian striker having been too aggressive as he went up for the aerial challenge.

Ball ends up in the back of the Uruguayans’ net via Domínguez (6)

The only goal of the first half occured on 38 minutes according to statistics. It happens with the hosts in possession inside the Uruguayan half, and while there appears to be little imminent danger when Melgar lifts a ball into space in the visitors’ penalty area, between left-back Domínguez and left-sided centre-half De León (the pair have momentarily switched positions), Peña does very well in lifting the ball past De León’s challenge, and as he finishes rather weakly towards goal, the ball hits Domínguez and ends up in the back of the net for a home lead. Uruguay are usually water tight at the back, but they’d looked a little suspect on that occasion.

A look at the visitors

To see Uruguay dressed in a 4-3-3 formation yet again was hardly a surprise. Despite some factors beyond their control making it a potentially very difficult tie in La Paz, manager Óscar Tabárez clearly still had faith in his players’ ability. And why would he not? They had soundly beaten the same opposition not long ago, and were looking to utilise some of their greatest team assets: Defensive strength and quick transitions. Those had both worked them a treat only last week in Lima, though in the infamously thin altiplano La Paz air, recreating the same energy levels could prove difficult.

Eduardo Pereira (second half)

Veteran ‘keeper and Argentina based Pereira had got the nod ahead of Javier Zeoli once again, with Jorge Seré not in the squad. Pereira, aged 35, had perhaps conceded a couple of rebounds last time around, but apart from that not been severely tested. It could prove to be a different proposition this time around.

The four men in defence read once again, from right to left: José Herrera, Nelson Gutiérrez, Hugo De León and Alfonso Domínguez. They were a tight-knit unit which profitted from such tactics as the team had been given in Peru: Have them sit deep, and they’ll be nearly impossible to break down. Well, that was at least the idea. Melgar and Peña, combining for the opening goal, had shown that they were not unbreachable.

On the ball: Hugo De León (second half)

Again, the two full-backs were relatively conservative in their attacking approach, and rarely venturing out from their own half. In the centre, Gutiérrez was the one who primarily went into challenges with Ramallo, while the highly experienced De León would pick up any pieces coming through. However, he had not done well in the situation which had led to the goal. Had Bolivia identified a weakness in De León’s play?

José Perdomo upon conceding a second half free-kick

At the base of their three man midfield, Uruguay had José Perdomo, a player who rarely accelerated into high pace, but whose positioning was impeccable. He was a strong duel player, and would enjoy the battles with players like Romero and Melgar in the hosts’ midfield. Slightly ahead of him and to his right, Perdomo had the towering Ostolaza, another player so strong in the challenge, and a great asset for set-pieces either end of the pitch through his sheer size. Combined, though, the Uruguayan midfield pair hardly had an abundance of pace, but they made up for whatever shortcomings they had through their positional awareness.

Rubén Paz (10)

Rubén Paz was the third midfielder, and he enjoyed distinctly more attacking freedom, something which would be expected from a South American #10. Rather than the European based star inside from him, Paz would look to exploit any leniency from Melgar or Soria, and he had shown only seven days earlier how he was capable of leading their lightening-quick transitions.

Enzo Francescoli and Paz wait to restart after Bolivia’s opening goal

Having only recently made the transfer from Racing Paris to French south coast giants Olympique Marseille, Enzo Francescoli enjoyed massive respect from a global audience. Formerly a South American ‘Player of the Year’, his influence would’ve been apparent even had he not carried the captain’s armband. He had not quite shone as brightly in Lima as could’ve been expected, though he had registered an assist for Alzamendi’s goal. Were these tactics suited to get the best out of him?

Left wing corner taker: Antonio Alzamendi

Like in Peru, Uruguay were in La Paz playing with their two wide forwards in the pair of goalscorers from last week: Rubén Sosa, left, and Antonio Alzamendi had both notched. They were both very direct players, and they had plenty of pace to burn, something which made them so well suited to the counter-attacking football which the team had displayed in their previous outing. Could they both prove telling again?

Borja stretchered off

With the teams coming into the down-tunnel dressing rooms for the half-time break, we see Bolivia captain Borja carried off on a stretcher, lying almost motionless. It is impossible to know what had happened, though, and it did look like the hosts would be coming back out for the start of the second half with a new captain.

Being a goal to the good appeared to be just reward for Bolivia’s first half display, at least according to commentator Helm. Did he see the entire half, though, or just the same footage which we ourselves had been presented with? 

Second half

The energetic Carlos Borja, pictured early in the second half

It had been a worrying sign right upon the half-time whistle that Bolivia’s captain Borja had been carried off and into the dressing room on a stretcher, and there was little in that sight which had indicated that he would return for the start of the second half. However, as it were, Borja had ‘returned from the dead’, and was fit enough to resume play for the second period. One had to say that this was a big bonus for the hosts, as he had clearly, again, been one of their more active and involved players from his right-sided role, where his stamina and energy levels had ensured him to run up and down that flank as if sprinting in altitude was the most common thing. Playing in La Paz for Bolívar, mind, it was not as if it was unusual for him.

Kick-off second half: Ramallo/Romero

The visitors also took to the pitch sporting their starting eleven, so as the referee signalled for the final 45 to begin, it happened with the original crew of 22. The hosts’ Romero and Ramallo got us back under way. As for Uruguay, they might’ve been less impressed by their efforts during the opening half, and so they would be looking to up the ante after the break. If they could, that is. Playing on these shores sure took its toll. 

Bolivia increase their lead

Peña about to pull the trigger

If Uruguay’s idea had been to sit back and contain the hosts at the start of the opening half, then it was a plan which would quickly backfire. A minute and 40 seconds after the restart, they found themselves with the proverbial mountain to climb: Bolivia had increased their lead to 2-0. While the finish from the lively Álvaro Peña had been emphatic, there had been some points in the lead-up to the goal which had mirrored what we’d seen for their opener. Bolivia had arrived along the right hand side, with Borja picking Melgar out with a short pass inside, and he in turn found Romero with another short ball. First time, the primary playmaker chipped a ball over the top of the visiting defence, over De León’s head and into space for Peña to run on to. The wide forward crashed his first time shot into the roof of the net, leaving Pereira with no chance whatsoever. Simplicity. 2-0.

Romero weights his first-time pass with perfection

Had Bolivia supremo Habegger spotted a weakness in the Uruguay defensive line? This had been their second goal after lifting the ball over the heads of the visiting defenders and into space between the left-sided centre-half and the left-back. On the previous occasion, De León and Domínguez had momentarily swapped positions, but this time they’d both been in territory where they had been designated. De León had not reacted very quickly, so perhaps turning back in an instant having had the ball played over the top of his head was not the big central defender’s forte?

Booking

Paz earns his yellow for fouling Borja

It must have been a pretty disheartening feeling to concede again so early after the restart, and just moments after Peña’s goal, Uruguay have their second player in the referee’s book as Paz trips Borja when the hosts’ lively wide man is about to embark on another journey ahead. The Bolivian captain remains on the ground for a little while, and there must have been some concern in the home dug-out, considering how he had been carried off at half-time. Fortunately, he eventually dusts himself off, and play can carry on.

Another goal

Sosa steadies himself for his goalbound shot

The idea must have been to keep possession within their team and certainly to avoid inviting the visitors back into the contest, at least right in the wake of their second goal. However, Bolivia show some rather indisciplined tendencies when conceding the ball inside their own half, and though Martínez prevents Paz from running through the centre with a lunging tackle just outside the area, Romero, under heavy pressure from Ostolaza, fatally plays a backward pass into right-back territory. Problem is that only Sosa happens to be where the ball ends up, and if there is one player you should not allow to have an opportunity to strike low and diagonally at goal from just inside the area, it is the Italy based forward. Sosa accepted the invitation gleefully, as his crisp, left-footed drive found the back of the net. Less than two minutes after Peña’s goal, Uruguay were right back into it.

Nearly another one for the hosts

Ramallo gets his header in

These early second half minutes were so lively, and as if just two goals and a booking had not been enough, Bolivia went straight back on attack and had a header off the top of the crossbar. What happened was that Borja again was fouled when coming forward, with Domínguez the offender, and while Pérez’ attempt at a shot from distance had been charged down by the defensive wall, the ball found its way to the right inside the visitors’ area. Martínez, up for the free-kick, recycled it and hit a cross into the six yard area, where Ramallo rose to get his head to the ball, seeing it bounce off the top of the bar with Pereira again beaten. The ‘keeper would’ve felt lucky to collect the rebound without much effort.

Yellow again

“Come ooon, ref!” Perdomo pleads his innocence after the foul on Melgar which earned him a caution

With ten minutes of the second half played, a third Uruguayan goes into the referee’s little black book. This time it is midfielder Perdomo who’s been too aggressive in a challenge with the skillful Melgar, whose close control had almost seen him evade the attempted tackle. Any lift the visitors may have felt after reducing the arrears had seemed to evaporate immediately as they’d conceded that Ramallo header off the bar. Was their goal back just a brief glimmer of hope, and one of little substance?

José Herrera: facing different challenge

While no altercations in tactics had been evident at the start of the second half, much due to the fact that we had not had a whole lot to base first half verdicts on, what was noticeable in the wake of Uruguay’s goal back, was that Bolivia had let goalscorer Peña switch from the right across to the left hand side. He had cut a lively figure early in the second period, and his goal had been a terrific finish. Was the idea now to overload the visitors’ right hand side defensively, where Herrera had been trying to contain Romero hitherto? Perhaps did Habegger feel it sufficient to have Borja and also Melgar along the right, and rather allow for some enterprising play along the other flank, too, as the hosts could’ve been eyeing a third goal to truly put the Uruguayans to the sword.

Game appears to settle

A floored Alzamendi is more or less a picture of Uruguay’s struggles. Pérez right behind him

As the hosts were only ahead by the slimmest of margins, Uruguay were by no means out of it; they were yet just a goal away from a precious point. Still, they would need to guard against the hosts defensively, as Bolivia were looking threatening when they were allowed to take the ball down and play. The visitors’ defensive line was usually very secure, though in these circumstances, little counted as normal, and the same applied for Uruguay’s defensive security. Another major point to their game was the lack of transitions, a telling factor to their game during the win last week in Lima, and while one should not ignore Bolivian tactics to play a big part in this, there was little doubt that their four most forward players had been unable to recreate their energy levels from the Peru game.

Ramallo’s effort well over from Peña’s cut back

The game has steadied into a more settled pattern than the frantic opening of the second half as we surpass the hour mark. If anything, it is the hosts who have looked the more threatening, and the lively Peña had worked himself into a crossing position from the byline to the left inside the area, only to see Ramallo scoop his low ball into the six yard box well over the bar. The same Peña had taken a knock during the build-up, and was soon seen receiving treatment on the touchline. It turned out to be severe enough for him to leave the field of play, bringing into action the exuberant Erwin Sánchez, the teenager who had showed plenty of promise in his second half appearance in their opening qualification win against Peru. Peña had worked more towards the left than the right hand side in his final ten minutes on the pitch, so would this be where Sánchez saw himself, too?

Looking menacing: Romero. Francescoli and Martínez debate with the referee, whilst Borja observes

Bolivia looked a tidy outfit on this performance, far from the shambles which had seen them lose heavily to Chile in the continental championships, where they’d exited without scoring a single goal. They were strong and organised at the back, where their experienced heads lead their battle, and where in particular the imposing Martínez had acquitted himself well. He’d won practically everything in the air. Soria was a steadying influence at the base of their midfield with his cool, and he would recycle the ball for the team’s more creative figures, where Melgar might have been less visible as the second half’s progressed, though he’d already played a big role. The ever-inspirational Romero kept distinguishing himself, some passing errors apart, as he would often seek to take advantage of those little pockets of space in the left hand channel. With Sánchez now on board, they had another massive asset: the substitute’s speed. Could they use it to their advantage?

Paz is also subdued

Approaching 70 minutes, it is still the hosts who are in the ascendancy, and perhaps could one expect an imminent change from the visitors? They look to be out of steam, and they appear to have few surprises left in their sleeves. A player like Francescoli is someone you’d be looking to in a situation where you are in need of producing a golden moment, but he’s desperately quiet. It is rather down the other half of the pitch where there’s pace being burnt and opportunities created, although few are big enough to seriously threaten Pereira. There had been an effort from just outside the area by Romero which the Uruguay custodian had failed to hold on to, sparking another moment of anxiety on the visitors’ bench, until they were relieved after Borja’s lifted attempt towards an unguarded net had sailed well over.

Sánchez about to unveil himself on the tie

Substitute Sánchez had slotted into the wide right position, but rather than playing to the extreme down the wing, he was now participating more even inside the pitch. He’d been set up to exploit Peru’s left-back Olivares last time out, and with little cover to the vulnerable defender on that occasion, Sánchez had often had it his way. He had shown in glimpses his vast potential once more, in taking the ball past several opponents in mazy runs, yet he had failed to reproduce his influence to the same extent. Still, the hosts kept sending their two attacking full-backs down both flanks; they were not just defending their way to a potential big win. 

Pereira does well

Pereira gets a few fingers to the ball to tip Ramallo’s header over

Pereira is easily the more worked of the two goalkeepers, and coming up to a quarter of an hour left for play, he’s been further tested by a clever low drive from a free-kick to the left outside the area by Sánchez. The substitute had aimed for a surprise towards the near post when a cross into the centre could well have been expected, though to his credit the 35 year old Argentina based ‘keeper got down quickly to beat the ball away for a left wing corner, from which Romero went on to find Ramallo’s head. The lone striker’s headed attempt was tipped over by Pereira, who also had to hold on to a 35 yard drive from left-back Pérez after a free-kick in the centre of the pitch.

Substitution

The expected change in Uruguayan personnel only happened with about 12 minutes left until the final whistle. In replacing full-back Herrera with midfield man Pablo Bengoechea, they went to three at the back, three across midfield and four up top. It was a desperate attempt to try and rescue a point, though they failed to spark an immediate revival despite seeing slightly more of the possession.

Moving from midfield and up into attack, actually towards a right-sided role, was Paz, who had disappointed hitherto, whereas Alzamendi would slot into a more central role along with Francescoli, who still could not produce anything reminiscent of his greatness. Bengoechea was thrust into the tie as something of a go-to man in midfield, with Perdomo and Ostolaza still doing the majority of the running, though by this point they appeared to be quite carefree as far as defensive duties went.

Paz sniffs the contents of the plastic bags which Bengoechea had brought with him onto the pitch

When Bengoechea came onto the pitch having replaced Herrera as the hosts were about to execute a free-kick to the left outside the area, he had brought with him three small plastic bags which he handed out to team mates in and around the defensive wall. It seemed as if the players who received them, and perhaps most notably Alzamendi, who had been played in, or tried to be played in, down the right hand side, would sniff rather than sip at the contents. So what was it? Additional oxygen would’ve made sense, though the plastic ‘containers’ didn’t quite fit the picture.

The end

As our tape is without a few minutes towards the end, we have no visual evidence of any great Uruguayan late effort, and it all appears so comfortable for the hosts through to the full-time whistle. If anything, Bolivia ought to have won by a greater margin, and with goal difference a possible tie-breaker in the group, the slender win could in fact come back to haunt them.

Agitated: Gutiérrez

Upon the final whistle, Uruguay defender Gutiérrez is seen having a lengthy chat with the referee. While it is clearly not the umpire’s fault that the visitors were leaving with zero points in the bag, the big defender comes across as someone less pleased. All in all, though, what he ought to be frustrated about was their own performance. Having said that, they had perhaps not been capable of greater resistance in the La Paz altitude. Bolivia great value for their win.

Conclusion:

Unlucky: Domínguez (here with Borja, Sosa behind them)

Alas, we do not have a lot of first half material to base our verdict on, but fact is that a spirited home side go into the dressing rooms at the interval a goal up courtesy of a well worked goal which wide forward Peña should take a lot of credit from. He was played in by Melgar’s perfectly executed pass, and while the chip over ‘keeper Pereira had not been powerful enough to cross the line with defenders chasing back, the hosts were lucky that it ricochetted off full-back Domínguez.

An early second half increase of the lead after Peña’s emphatic finish high into the roof of the net from Romero’s delightfully chipped through ball left Uruguay with a huge job on their hands, though they pulled a vital goal back following Romero’s unfortunate pass back into his own area under pressure from Ostolaza. The lethal Sosa struck confidently into the bottom corner. The hosts had been the better side for the majority of the second half, and they were well worth the two points.

Player ratings

BOLIVIA: 
12 Galarza 6.8
helpless for the goal which he conceded, and apart from that he was very rarely worked. Prefers to punch when coming for aerial balls
3 Fontana 6.9
again stuck to his defensive tasks, and with the opposition so laboured, he was not tested very often. However, caught in a bit of a no man’s land for Uruguay’s goal, but usually a strong reader of the game
4 Ferrufino 7.0
is not called upon a great deal, but plays a starring role in keeping Sosa quiet. Perfectly happy to let his team mates take the plaudits, yet looks composed when called upon
5 Pérez 7.2
a willing customer coming forward down the left, and a threat with his left foot, which would deliever several crosses, albeit of differing quality
6 Soria 7.1
rarely strayed too far from Francescoli. Kept it simple in his passing game, and provided an outlet in his defensive midfield position. Steady
7 Melgar 7.3
whilst not the most eye-catching among the home ranks, the skillful Melgar still gave an accomplished performance as a more steadying influence from his inside right position. Fine chip into the area for the opening goal, and he did show some of his delightful technique
8 Borja 7.3
like Pérez across from him, never grew tired of making advance along the right. Played with such energy and enthusiasm, and was at times also coming towards the base of the midfield in order to distribute
10 Romero 7.1
whilst he displayed his neat close control and sublime playmaking skills once again, he also had a few misplaced passes, and was pressurized into a mistake for Sosa’s goal. Operated with plenty of attacking freedom in an advanced inside left role, and is creditted with a delightful assist for the second goal
14 Martínez 7.4
a big influence, particularly through his physicality, and whenever there was an aerial challenge, the big, flexible central defender would usually come out trumps. Another who was not afraid of crossing the halfway line
18 Ramallo 7.4
lead the line by example, and gave a committed display against two really awkward centre-backs. Rarely gave up any cause, and looked to link up well with both Romero and Peña. Unfortunate when his looping header came bouncing back off the top of the crossbar
19 Peña 7.5
a very inspired performance as a wide, attacking midfielder. Played a huge part with his goal and a half, and gave the visiting full-backs plenty of bother as he would often combine well with his team mates. Eventually tired, and came off after taking a knock
(16 Sánchez 7.0
a more energy-saving performance than last time around, but he still managed to display his ability in running with the ball at pace and darting past opponents. Looks such a tantalizing prospect)

URUGUAY: 
1 Pereira 6.6
needed to make a few stops, though was left without much chance of saving either goal. Fairly reliable, although his jump did perhaps not instill too much confidence throughout the defensive line, and also looked lost when conceding a rebound which let Ramallo set Borja up for an effort at an empty target
2 Gutiérrez 6.8
made a few interceptions, and generally acquitted himself with a sound level of quality in an otherwise disappointing defensive display by la Celeste
3 De León 6.4
not his assured self, and on this occasion appeared to struggle in closing the avenue between himself and Domínguez to his left. Sluggish performance from the great centre-back
4 Herrera 6.6
often needs to close Romero down, and doesn’t rush into challenges, but stays on his feet. Offers little in coming forward, but also it is not along his side where Uruguay’s defensive woes come to the fore the most. Sacrificed in an attempt at rescuing a point
(14 Bengoechea –
can not make much of an influence after coming on late, as most of his team mates are beleaguered by then. Clearly has the wish to provide some inspiration, but fails to ignite those around him)
5 Perdomo 6.4
also not quite up to usual standards, but was part of a midfield which was at times outnumbered, and found it difficult to maintain necessary defensive standards
6 Domínguez 6.3
often faced various threats along his side defensively, and was rarely allowed any forward ventures. Failed to coexist well enough with De León, something which the Bolivians knew how to exploit
7 Alzamendi 6.7
perhaps the forward player who was involved the most, even if that doesn’t necessarily say so much on this performance, as the Uruguayans struggled in the altitude and could not profit from their usual transition game
8 Ostolaza 6.2
clearly not best pleased in the altitude, and rarely got stuck in like one usually sees from the big midfield man. The visitors got outnumbered in the midfield areas, and Ostolaza failed to provide sufficient presence
9 Francescoli 6.1
disappointing from the team’s talisman to exit the game without having performed anywhere near the peak of his capability. Clearly looked troubled in the testing circumstances
10 Paz 6.5
apart from showing some tendencies in the attack leading to the goal, the attacking midfielder, too, was far from his best. Kept falling victim to Bolivia’s midfield numbers, and even saw yellow for a pointless foul. Had to go through more defensive work than he’d have wanted
11 Sosa 6.3
struck well with his left foot for the goal when he was given his solitary opportunity, but apart from that could not influence proceedings in a very ordinary performance

kaltz

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